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De Laveaga Dell/National AIDS Memorial Grove

I first wrote about De Laveaga Dell and the National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in April of 2008. Today, on our anniversary, my wife and I took a drive to San Francisco and the neighboring coast and walked through the memorial and the Dell. We both know people whose lives have been forever altered by the virus and the disease. And the fact that their lives have been altered, has altered ours….

Today, we paused for awhile at the memorial itself, concentric circles of engraved names forever memorialized, like ripples in a pond, the Circle of Friends, of lives touched by AIDS. Today, the larger, uncarved circles include many or most of us. At the memorial, in the center of the circle, was a vase with flowers surrounded by more flowers that lay upon the memorial surface. A beautiful dogwood tree was in full bloom, and the memorial was surrounded by living flowers. A solitary gentleman sat in contemplation on a bench in the quiet of the redwood grove.

In writing this entry, I found this page of a virtual tour of parts of the Dell. I also found an historical photo of the area, which was once called Deer Glen. Significantly, I also found this PDF about the Grove, a 1999 Rudy Bruner Award, Silver Medal Winner, with a photograph of the Circle of Friends. The National AIDS Memorial Grove resulted from a 99-year lease agreement with San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. The agreement includes the salary of a gardener and maintenance costs.

The Dell is beautiful. Visit it while it is in bloom, if possible. At every turn is a memorial of some sort, often in the form of engraved boulders, including this one about the De Laveaga Magnolias, in honor of the man who originally gave De Laveaga Dell to the City of San Francisco, Jose Vicente de Laveaga.

Today the gardener was very busy. He was riding a lawnmower, mowing the central grassy field of the Dell in a visual metaphor. For at this time of year, the field is abloom with thousands and thousands of the small flowers that can grow in sunlit grassy lawns in California, transforming the lawns in a brilliant display of color, only inches high.

And with each pass of the gardener, thousands more of those beautiful and ephemeral flowers were cut down….

-Bill at

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